Partnership with Academia Benefits Composites

Academia and industry can have more in common than you think. In fact, according to professors Rudolph Seracino, North Carolina State University; Antonio DeLuca, University of Miami; and David Dittenbar, West Virginia University, the two seemingly opposite groups can form mutually beneficial relationships, especially when industry companies can approach groupings of universities like the team’s Center for Integration of Composites into Infrastructure (CiCi), which focuses accelerating the adoption of composites into infrastructure applications.

The three professors addressed the opportunities—and opportunity costs—related to university and industry partnership in the session “University-Industry Partnerships: From Research to Practice”.

Many attendees came because they didn’t understand the benefits or even how to start a partnership. Fortunately, with perks like technology and applications information exchange, access to peer reviewed research, state-of-the-art equipment and facilities as well as access to a network of faculty and students (future employee pool) the collaboration is a win-win situation. “There are National Science Foundation (NSF) grants that require industry participation. And when industry does participate, they gain access to a testing service, the possibility of a tax deduction through grant donations and a student focused on their product,” says Seracino. “The tip is to look for an institution that is IAS accredited and accepted by the ICC (International Code Council). At places like CiCi, we will direct you to the university within the group that can best meet your needs.”

“One of the largest concerns companies in general have, not just the composites industry, is the Intellectual Property right that the university would have based on technology it develops,” says Seracino. “But universities are willing to work with companies and in the end it’s never as big of an issue.” Among the successful co-ops, Dittenbar named ocean thermal energy conversion system (OTEC) fatigue testing and the development of modular housing and composite pavement panels. “The goal for us is to have peer reviewed material and develop code writing,” says Deluca. “On the other side, the benefits to industry can be innumerable.”